Does Assurance Belong to the Essence of Faith? Calvin and the Calvinists

Joel R. Beeke | August 25, 2009

The contemporary church stands in great need of refocusing on the doctrine of assurance if the desirable fruit of Christian living is to abound. A relevant issue in church history centers in whether or not the Calvinists differed from Calvin himself regarding the relationship between faith and assurance. The difference between the two was quantitative and methodological, not qualitative or substantial. Calvin himself distinguished between the definition of faith and the reality of faith in the believer’s experience. Alexander Comrie, a representative of the Dutch Second Reformation, held essentially the same position as Calvin in mediating between the view that assurance is the fruit of faith and the view that assurance is inseparable from faith. He and some other Calvinists differ from Calvin in holding to a two-tier approach to the consciousness of assurance. So Calvin and the Calvinists furnish the church with a model to follow that is greatly needed today.

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Joel R. Beeke Dr. Joel R. Beeke is president and professor of systematic theology and homiletics at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, editor of Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, editorial director of Reformation Heritage Books, president of Inheritance Publishers, and vice-president of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society. He has written, co-authored, or edited seventy books (most recently, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life, Living Zealously, Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage, Getting Back Into the Race: The Cure for Backsliding, Parenting by God’s Promises: How to Raise Children in the Covenant of Grace, Living for the Glory of God: An Introduction to Calvinism, Meet the Puritans, Contagious Christian Living, Calvin for Today, Developing a Healthy Prayer Life, and Taking Hold of God), and contributed 2,000 articles to Reformed books, journals, periodicals, and encyclopedias. His Ph.D. is in Reformation and Post-Reformation theology from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). He is frequently called upon to lecture at seminaries and to speak at Reformed conferences around the world. He and his wife Mary have been blessed with three children: Calvin, Esther, and Lydia.

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